How I Met Your Mother’ season 8 reaches the beginning of the end with its twenty-first episode of the penultimate season “Romeward Bound,” as Lily struggles with the Captain's ('Twin Peaks' Kyle MacLachlan) offer to move her and Marshall to Rome for a year, while Barney and Ted fixate on a mysterious MacLaren's girl who conceals her body with an oversized coat, uncertain what Robin will think.

Last time’s ‘How I Met Your Mother’ episode “The Time Travelers” saw future versions of Barney and Ted urging the present Ted to attend Robots Vs. Wrestlers, while Marshall and Robin argued over the rights to name a MacLaren’s drink, so what did tonight’s all-new episode bring?  Are we any closer to learning how the final years for Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall and Lily play out?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘How I Met Your Mother’ season 8 episode 21, “Romeward Bound!”

In the spring of 2013, Marshall and Lily had gotten their home and professional lives into a well-oiled machine, before The Captain offered Lily an opportunity to work abroad with him in Rome for a year. Meanwhile at MacLaren’s, Ted convinces Barney to stay at the bar with him to ogle a hot girl from his yoga class, hiding her supposedly insane body underneath an over-sized coat.

As the boys gawk, Lily shows up asking for advice on the offer, to which Ted points out that Marshall would likely love to go to Italy. Given how busy he’d been at work lately, Lily realizes that he’d likely be unhappy taking care of Marvin all day in Italy, imagining how a beautiful Italian woman would whisk him away. Meanwhile, Barney has Carl turn the heat up, hoping the girl will remove her coat.

Lily calls the Captain to decline his offer, effectively ending her career in the process, when Robin enters the bar and surprisingly greets the woman in the coat. Barney initially mistakes the gesture to be the sign of a threesome, but Robin quickly introduces the woman as their wedding planner Liddy.

Lily goes to surprise Marshall at work, but quickly finds the offices deserted, and that all of Marshall’s claims of being busy were wildly over exaggerated. It seems the Gruber case had cost the firm much of their clients, but Marshall didn’t want Lily to see him as a failure. Lily reveals that she turned down the offer to go to Italy, to which Marshall explains that he’d love to have gone, and vows to get the Captain to offer Lily the job again.

As they debate the wedding, Robin finally catches on to Barney’s ploy to get Liddy’s coat off, but surprisingly reveals that she too has been curious about the woman’s body. Barney laments Marshall’s absence, given that a happily settled man could innocently ask Liddy to take her coat off, though Robin counters that Barney should theoretically be capable of the same without it coming off as creepy. After some initial discomfort, Barney asks Liddy to remove her coat, to which the girl obliges, nearly blinding Robin and Barney with her attractiveness.

Back at the apartment, the Captain calls Lily to offer the job once more, having been convinced by Marshall to try again. Lily again refuses, explaining to the gang that she fears her own failures would drive Marshall away, and dismissing that Marshall would be that excited anyway. Down in Little Italy, we see Marshall decked out in full ‘Godfather’ attire, examining the oranges at a local market.

Later at the bar, Barney expresses his excitement over what Liddy might wear to the wedding, but Ted urges him not to overestimate how accepting Robin would be of his leering ways. Barney quickly gets defensive and reminds Ted that -- as her fiancée -- he knows Robin better, to which Ted backs off and offers to buy the next round of drinks.

Hanging out on the stoop outside, Marshall explains in his own broken Italian that Lily should indeed be brave enough to move to Italy for a year, and they’d have one another to help each other through the difficult transition. Moved, Lily finally agrees to take the trip with him, as Marshall admits he’d already started shopping. Later, Barney returns home to find Robin waiting in an oversized coat, before he turns up the heat.

As the first of four episodes to take us through the end of the season consecutively, we fully expected "Romeward Bound" to be a bit light on significance to the over-arching plots. As such, it remains to be seen if Marshall and Lily's trip to Italy will take a dramatic turn of any kind, but "Romeward Bound" get some solid mileage out of the over-dramatized fantasies of their life abroad. Less effective is Ted and Barney's story with the wedding planner Liddy, considering the audience isn't given any real payoff to what lies beneath her coat, but the thread does sow some ominous tension between the bros before the upcoming wedding. All in all, a few solid laughs to be had, but a mostly bridge-building half-hour.

What say you? Did ‘How I Met Your Mother’s latest “Romeward Bound” leave you primed for Marshall and Lily's European adventures?  Do you think it made for a solid entry to the penultimate season? Join us next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ episode “The Bro-Mitzvah” on CBS!